TTTom's Thoughts on Hospitality & Service

I've been told all our opinions matter.  So I'm putting that thesis to the test, taking this space to write out my ideas and have an open ended discussion with my peers regarding the state of the Hospitality Industry and Customer Service in today's world.
I've written a few columns for The New Hampshire Hospitality News on the subject [see Hospitality Talks page on this site] but I'd like to start anew with the title being

                     "Outside the Food Walk-in, A view of Hospitality from the Inside"

   So this page set up looks right as I blog this and it seems that I can add to it the way I here it goes ...Stay tuned and feel free to contact me to come and TALK to you or your people on any or all of these topics.

New Post 10/25/12
                                             "The Wonderful World of “The Weeds”

Have you ever been to a restaurant and seen the lost server? Sure you have. We’ve all seen him, with that “deer caught in the headlight” look. He’s running around the restaurant not really knowing which way to turn next…maybe a few customers are trying to get his attention maybe his name is being yelled in the kitchen..or his drinks are up and getting watered down at the bar either way he is  “IN THE WEEDS”

I really can’t say when in my 30 yr career in Restaurants that I first heard the term “in the weeds” but I love it!! For those not familiar with the term its when anyone front or back of the house is buried in slips, orders, customers..etc...It truly does describe the feeling of being overwhelmed in your ability to serve your guests. You literally can’t see your way out!  And yet that server does get out of it. Some just manage it better then others. So after more then a few trips to the aforementioned locale allow me to grab the weed wacker and extend some advice on the subject of  “How to get out of the weeds”

#1 Breathe.. Like the old show biz adage says “never let em see ya sweat” this holds true for the weeds also. So often it’s more the panic that feeds the weeds mentality.  Sometimes a simple pause and taking a breath enables the server to see his way out.

#2 Do a quick prioritizing i.e. what needs to be done FIRST? Yes everyone wants you NOW but what can you do to serve?  Is it the hot food?  Greeting the new 4 top? Or picking up the drinks at the bar?

#3 Now do it!!!  and do it with a jump in your step. It always helps customers understand you’re busy if they see your moving quickly and with purpose. 

#4 Finally while doing “it” see what other things can be done on the way…don’t be so singularly possessed that you overlook what’s in your path…can you greet the new 4 top saying you know that they’re there with a smile while your bringing those drinks over to other guests? Sometimes a simple acknowledgement is all the new folks need to let them know they’re in for a good evening, which remember IS your overall purpose at this job!  

Also never underestimate that smile thing! When applied to all 4 steps the weeds seem to clear. Your panic look is eliminated if only from the outside. Which is another old adage, “Fake it till you Make it”. By just acting like you know what your doing you can calm the panic in both you and others.

So to recap,  Breathe, smile, move quickly and with purpose of knowing where you’re going, smile and keep doing your job..oh yea and did I mention, keep smiling?…really!

OK? Great see ya in the weeds! Yup, just because you know how to get out, doesn’t mean you’ll never get in them again!

New Post 11/3/2012

                                         "Preparation = Prevention"

So last we met I spoke about getting out of “The weeds”…Then I thought is the destination so certain…are “The weeds” a place all servers have to go? Is it a disease that is absolute for our business? If so might there be some cure? Or better yet, something to prevent the dreaded “weeds”.  But of course there is!  So today I give you how to stay OUT of those weeds!

Believe it or not Management, Ownership and anyone that has spent any time in the aforementioned locale have given a lot of thought to prevention! Some of that thinking has manifested itself into what is called “Side work”.

I recall being a newbie in the biz and I honestly thought of side work as busy work, stuff you did just because you were there!  Kinda like elementary school when you had a substitute but your teacher didn’t leave any lesson plans.  Remember that?

As a server at my first chain restaurant I remember thinking, “Do we really need 10 Sugars 10 Sweet n Lows AND 10 Equal in ALL the bowls? That was the rule before we could be checked out of our shift? Busy work?  Yes!  Unnecessary? Well let’s say it’s a busy lunch shift, your section is almost full when all of a sudden the hostess, in her special way, double seats you with a duce and four top and its then the lovely grandma at your first 4 top just has to have 3 more sweet n lows for her ice tea as she points to the empty bowl and the wrappers all over her table.  Now? Yes!  You need the weed whacker.  Point?  If all the sugar bowls were full you would be fine.  The same goes for when you reach for a soup spoon at the soup station and it’s full.. or the napkins and they're stocked. All these are items that you need and are on the side work check list before you open the doors for lunch.  As long as everyone did their side work, when you go for those items you are able to complete your job of keeping the guests happy [yup check the job description] Your job and all your fellow workers job becomes a lot easier when the side work is done and by easier I mean you stay out of the weeds! It all comes down to preparation.  Side work at the front of the house is what’s called prep work at the back of the house.  You are preparing for a busy shift. I realize now that side work is the oil that keeps all running smoothly.

It’s at this point in writing that bloggers use some pithy quote to drive home their point. I looked for something under “preparation” and all I found were war and sports quotes. Although our job does work up a sweat I don’t think violence should come to mind!

 So here’s pithy hospitality quote for you “side work really does help you do your job better i.e. makes you money!!!  Ah how’s that for driving home a point. 

Speaking of driving, have you ever had a friend, spouse, family member borrow your car and return it but the gas gauge is on empty and you don’t see it until you're on the highway? It’s kinda like that.
So the idea for today is: Don’t be that person that borrows the car and leaves it on empty.  Don’t be the co worker that only does a little of the side work and leaves the rest of your restaurant family out of gas, stranded, and in the weeds.

Cya again soon!

New Post [kinda] 11/12/12
 I've been a little overwhelmed this week so here's an article I wrote for NH Hospitality a few years back
Enjoy and I promise some new thoughts next week

Thanks for checking in.

New  Post 11/28/12
Sorry... I took a break for Thanksgiving Holiday!  Hope you had as much fun with family and friends as I did.  Now back to some new thoughts on our Industry:
                                         Letting The Service Industry Serve You

When I first starting speaking to our industry my first talk was entitled “The No Me Challenge,”.. challenging servers to bring their best to the table.  One of the most relevant points in that talk is this.... no industry will serve you better then the service industry.

By that I mean working in the Hospitality Industry after a time gives you an amazing insight into human nature. Your understanding of people and situations will allow you to be a much better judge of all things human, no matter where life leads you in the future.

This point may not be apparent to the newbie in the biz. So allow me to give an example;

 Your first party is a couple on a first date. You see they’re both shy and the conversation is a little awkward, as a rookie server you may not even know it’s a first date and you just take their order.

But if you’re a seasoned professional server, you observe their behavior and understand the situation, so you not only take their order but you draw them out a bit, asking a few questions, talking a little bit more and helping with their evening by giving them something to talk about [even if its just about you]

See the more we work in hospitality and serve “John Q. Public” the more we are able to read people, see moods, relationships and understand it all with clearer insight.  Over a period of time after serving and taking care of so many people we become more comfortable with people and all their situations. 

We get to see such a variety of people, old, young, families and friends or groups of co workers.  We see how they interact with each other in situations where they sometimes aren’t even aware they are being observed. These observations of our fellow man builds into knowledge of human behavior that we all can use somewhere down the road.

  I read in a professional publication that a great barometer of how people will act in the workplace with co workers or clients is to take them out to lunch and watch how they treat the server.  Are they rude and order them around with no regard to their situation? Or are they’re respectful and pleasant to them?  You as the server get the answer to those questions with every table. Just think how your “people barometer” is being fine tuned everyday!

So later in life now on a sales call you’ll see that your client isn’t shutting down to your pitch he’s merely saying no to all the buzz and distractions going on around him…maybe now is not the time to try to close the deal but to re-schedule on a less hectic day! Or the tone in her voice on that cold call isn’t saying no it’s just saying not now and to call back another time.

Reading people and growing those people skills that aren’t taught in Business School is one of the many abilities you acquire when working in the Hospitality Business.

So next time you approach that new party that’s loud and laughing, keep that antenna up and observe. With any luck you can take away more then just a tip from this group as you watch and learn from their behavior

  As Business Philosopher Jim Rohn said “Don’t just let your job make something for you let it make something of you.”  You’re in the right job to do just that!
See you again soon. Thanks for checking in!